BY JASON JONES
Doug Christie remembers the first time he met a rookie from North Carolina named Vince Carter prior to the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season.
Christie was playing for the Toronto Raptors and Carter joined the veterans at Air Canada Centre for a workout.
“We played some three-on-three and he was open to asking questions and getting information,” Christie said.
Entering 20th year
Carter, it turned out, always welcomed advice. He soaked up a lot of it on his way to winning Rookie of the Year.
Carter has remained inquisitive throughout a career that will almost certainly land him in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
But entering his 20th season, he’s also answering questions the same way Christie, Charles Oakley, Dee Brown and Kevin Willis did for him.
Played with superstars
Christie had played with Hall of Famers James Worthy and Patrick Ewing. Oakley played with Ewing and Michael Jordan. Brown had been a teammate of Larry Bird, and Willis played with Dominique Wilkins.
“They all played with superstars … prior to being on that team in Toronto. They’d all been around superstars and watching them do their thing,” Carter said.
“So it was easy to go sit with them and talk to them and learn the preparation of the game and how to be a pro, to prep each and every night for my matchup. And I felt comfortable as a player immediately. Of course I was thrown into the fire but my preparation helped slow things down.”
Questions for Carter
It’s part of Carter’s job to slow things down for Sacramento’s collection of young wing players. But it’s not just the newbies who can benefit from an eight-time All-Star who is generally regarded as one of the best locker room presences in the league.
“I’m going to learn from Vince Carter on how to be a better leader,” said guard Garrett Temple, who is entering his eighth season.
“If I was a Buddy Hield, I’d be asking Vince Carter question after question,” Temple added.
“ … It’s great to have guys like that to show these guys this is what it takes to make it this long in this league.”
‘A respect factor’
The Kings have 10 players with less than three seasons of NBA experience.
Carter is impressed with how the young players are already asking a lot of questions.
Carter said rookie Justin Jackson, who also played at North Carolina, reached out during the summer as soon as Carter committed to signing with Sacramento. He’s been fielding questions from the young Kings ever since.
Carter is proactive about giving guidance as well.
“He’s not always waiting for them, he’s going to them and giving them information,” Christie said. “… And you’ve got to take in the fact that he’s a Hall of Fame player and there’s a respect factor. They saw him do it at the highest level that there possibly was.”
Lending his voice
Kings coach Dave Joerger, who had Carter on his team in Memphis, welcomes his veterans to chime in with what they see on the floor.
Sometimes a player responds differently when it’s a peer rather than a coach drilling home a point.
“It saves my voice a lot,” Joerger said. “They see the same things I do. They’re proactive in coaching guys up.”
While Carter enjoys sharing his knowledge, he hedges at the suggestion he’ll pursue a coaching career.
Carter has done well as a television analyst in the offseason and sees himself behind a microphone rather than holding a clipboard. “But never say never,” he said.
“I feel like in broadcasting I can still coach the fans out there,” Carter said. “They all look at this game and say this and that, but I can break it down for them. But at the same time, it’s going to sound weird, I enjoy coaching. I enjoy helping guys; I enjoy that part of it.”
He wouldn’t be the first broadcaster to get into coaching.
“Maybe when it’s all said and done you may see me sitting on the bench and say, ‘You said you didn’t want to do this,’ ” Carter said. “But as of now as a player, I enjoy helping guys and watching them grow. That’s what helped me catch on quickly … because of guys like Charles Oakley and those guys being in my ear all the time, preparing me.”